Charlestown council seats 3 on charter panel, ignoring 4 applicants

Charlestown council seats 3 on charter panel, ignoring 4 applicants

CHARLESTOWN — The Town Council has appointed three residents to its Charter Revision Advisory Committee and is facing criticism for not filling all seven spots of the advisory body despite having enough applicants.

A 3-0 vote on Monday put three residents on the committee. Applications were received from Paula A. Andersen, Deborah S. Brink, Cheryl P. Dowdell, J. Lawrence Dunn, Marjorie F. Frank, the Rev. Jan V. Knost and John Hamilton. 

The council appointed Dunn, Knost and Frank, as recommended by council member George Tremblay. Dunn will serve as chairman.

The Charter Revision Advisory Committee operates with between three and seven members whose terms are concurrent with the Town Council’s.

The committee is required by ordinance to review the charter at least once per year and recommend revisions, if any. 

“Owing to an apparent lack of interest in amending the charter and in the wisdom of constraint to make changes in an enduring document, the committee has not met since 2012,” Tremblay said. There had been no applicants since 2012 until the current group, he said. 

A lack of interest in serving on the committee suggests satisfaction with the charter as it stands, Tremblay asserted. 

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said.

Former Council President Deborah Carney said all seven should have been appointed. 

“Regardless of personal feelings, the ordinance does state three to seven, and that was adopted many years ago,” Carney said. 

She also asked Tremblay what criteria were used to select the three people he recommended.

“I have probably greater knowledge of those three individuals than the rest,” Tremblay said. 

Tremblay also said the current ordinance requires review of the charter at “an excessive frequency,” and called for a change to review the document on an as-needed basis.  

None of the other applicants were interviewed, Tremblay said. 

Carney said that Dowdell had served on a previous charter commission and Andersen, a former councilor, also would have good knowledge of the charter. 

“I would pick all seven,” she said. “Then you would have a broader range of people looking at it.” 

Carney also questioned why the council didn’t act in March or April on three applications it received in February: Andersen, Dowdell and Frank.

“It needed to be announced, that’s why it was not on the last agenda,” Councilor Bonnie Van Slyke said.

“There was plenty of time to announce it,” Carney said, noting the three applications were received at Town Hall Feb. 22.

“I think three is a great number for a commission like this,” Van Slyke later said. “They’re open meetings, they’re workshop,s and anyone can come and present their ideas.” 

Tremblay said making the committee larger would “just get us in the weeds” on issues unrelated to the committee’s objectives. Councilor Denise Rhodes agreed. President Virginia Lee and Vice President Julie Carroccia were absent.


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